“Alt lit is alive and well”
By A. J. BrownOctober 17, 2023
At the edge of what I call the “Stories Strip” on Sunset Boulevard, the colorful Project DéBRIS vintage seemed to crop up overnight. A flagship of Silver Lake Flea, DéBRIS hosts independent designers retailing vintage clothing, and an eclectic array of items ranging from bass guitars to plates embossed with the visage of Christ.
It is no surprise, then, that the self-described “Princess Diana of Fucking Silverlake” and her partner in crime find themselves among the racks of DéBRIS on a warm Sunday night, hosting a reading. Erin Satterthwaite (a.k.a. Suburban Cutie) and the prolific Brittany Menjivar together constitute Car Crash Collective: a sexy new reading series on the alternative literature scene. Car Crash Collective regularly hosts a variety of readers, from the serially clouted to the untried and emergent, at Footsies Bar. Beginning at 10:00 p.m. and ending at 2:00 a.m., audiences are regaled with bloody poetry, pledges of allegiance (to the Car Crash Collective, obviously), essays, stand-up routines, and—of course—autofiction.
Tonight, the “party girl poets” don dresses from Heaven and Hell, a brand sold at DéBRIS that specializes in lingerie-esque slip dresses and tops bearing stills from films such as The Shining and Crash, the latter appropriately sported by both Britt and Erin. DéBRIS pulled its best Victorian garb for the reading, entitled CONSUMPTION, which lines the racks framing the reading space with silk, lace, and cream.
“I actually wrote a whole essay on women and illness,” Erin says, tossing her hair over her shoulder before reading “It’s Beautiful to Die” from her Substack. For me, much of the charm of Car Crash Collective derives from the erudite sensibilities that underscore the unpretentious air of irreverence Britt and Erin have cultivated. While diligently curated by its founders, Car Crash events brim with possibility. You get the sense that anything truly goes.
Car Crash Collective fixture Jack Skelley tells me, not for the first time, how friendly the scene feels. As writers and audience members filter in, the room fills with bright smiles, big hugs, and peals of laughter which only settle into a buzz of quiet excitement as the lights dim and a projector flicks on. As “sacrificial lambs,” Erin and Britt read pieces of their own to kick off the event. Erin’s “Bones,” a personal favorite of mine, can be found in Forever Magazine. Britt’s multimedia adventure includes an article about her time battling COVID-19 in the fall of her senior year at Yale, which includes Finsta captions as primary sources and an embedded mukbang.
The parade of readers that follow includes new and familiar faces in the world of Los Angeles alternative literature, all of whom receive the same whoops, cheers, and applause from the audience both before and after they read their work. Lily Abbitt’s declaration that “this is [her] first ever reading” is met with applause. She giggles and shrugs between poems that wrench the audience through moments of terror, pain, joy, and healing. She ends with a piece that she “just wrote outside right now.”
At the end of the night, patrons excitedly share their purchases, and promise to see one another at the next reading (October 18 at Footsies, if you even care). Hugs are exchanged and next moves planned (“Prado tonight, queen?”). At least half the room remains to help the organizers pack up. To quote a recent Car Crash Collective Instagram post, “Alt lit is alive and well.”
Photo courtesy of Mollie Ophelia.
LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.
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